Many of you saw reports of this event:
“Violent protests on the University of California, Berkeley’s campus forced school officials to cancel a Wednesday night appearance by right-wing agitator Milo Yiannopoulos.”
Like many on the left, I am made uncomfortable about blocking a speaker from appearing on a college campus, regardless of his or her views [this is entirely separate from honoring such a speaker, for example by an honorary degree or an invitation to speak at an official college function like a commencement.] I have an alternative suggestion. Permit the speaker to speak, but either refuse to attend, or attend and sit in stony silence while he or she speaks.
My favorite solution is to mob the site, filling every available seat, and then just sit. No boos, no catcalls, no demands for equal time. Just sit. Let the person speak for as long as he or she wishes, but just sit. Trust me, this would be unnerving. My guess is that someone like Yiannopoulos would start out bold and brazen, making deliberately inflammatory statements to evoke some response, and then begin to falter as the minutes go by and he gets no response at all. Try it some time. After a while, when it turns out that he is getting the silent treatment, he will make a series of abusive statements and then crawl away.
Suppose there are a few supporters in the audience. Fine, let them cheer and applaud, to stony silence from everyone else. This is what is often called “shunning,” and the psychological effects can be quite forceful.
The freedom to speak does not carry with it a right to be responded to, or even listened to.